Interactive Monitoring Map 

Southern Air Monitoring Plan

To date, the Wood Buffalo Environmental Association`s (WBEA’s) monitoring has been largely focused in the resource extraction areas of the northern portion of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB). WBEA’s air and forest health monitoring programs have been designed to monitor potential environmental effects resulting from these developments.

The number of resource extraction developments in the southern portion of the air shed, the area south of Fort McMurray and north of Lac La Biche, are expected to continue to increase over the next several decades. As new projects are approved and commissioned in the southern part of the air shed, air quality and forest health monitoring programs will need to be enhanced. WBEA’s long history of monitoring in the region has demonstrated that to be informative and cost-effective, monitoring activities must not only be integrated and well-coordinated, but also meet stakeholder needs.

Geography of the Southern RMWB

The southern area of the WBEA air shed is defined as the area south of Fort McMurray and north of Lac La Biche, an area of approximately 16,000 square kilometers. The area is located in the Boreal Forest Natural Region of Alberta and is vegetated by deciduous, mixed wood and coniferous forest.

The area topography is characterized by undulating to hummocky uplands with extensive wetlands and numerous lakes. The Stony Mountains, located along the northwestern portion of the Christina River watershed, represent the largest hill complex in the area. Elevations range from 740 meters above sea level (masl) in the upper plateaus of the region to about 245 masl at the confluence of the Christina and Clearwater Rivers.

Land use consists mainly of forestry, oil and gas, recreation and subsistence (Natural Regions Committee 2006). Prominent features include Highway 881 and the Canadian National Railway (CN), both of which traverse north to south through the area (MEG Surmont EIA Application, 2012). The map to the left shows the communities, oil sands plant status and WBEA continuous air monitoring sites in the southern area of the RMWB.

There are two dominant communities in the region with scattered primary dwellings and seasonal cabins. The population of Conklin in 2012 was 318, according to a municipal census conducted by the RMWB. The population of Janvier, also known as Janvier South or Chard was 171 in 2012, according to a municipal census conducted by the RMWB.

WBEA’s Proposed Southern Air Monitoring Plan

WBEA has created a plan which proposes timely and appropriate integrated air and terrestrial monitoring for the southern RMWB, based upon current and future resource extraction plans.

The Southern Air Monitoring Plan proposes a science-based enhancement of monitoring that meets regional stakeholder needs. In developing the Plan, consideration was given to monitoring objectives and local geographical features such as terrain, meteorology, site characteristics, emissions sources and supporting infrastructure, including power and road access.

Specifically, the Plan was developed in consideration of a number of policy instruments and regulatory guidelines including:

• The Alberta Air Monitoring Directive (AMD, February, 2014)

• Alberta Ambient Air Quality Objectives (AAAQO)

• The 2009 Ambient Air Monitoring Strategy for Alberta

• Management Frameworks

• The Lower Athabasca Regional Plan (LARP)

• Regulatory approvals to facility operators issued under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act (EPEA)

• Industrial dispersion modeling and site monitoring

A subcommittee of the WBEA Ambient Air Technical Committee (AATC) met regularly to consider monitoring requirements in the southern RMWB and to develop and review the proposed plan. The resulting Southern Air Monitoring Plan was the outcome of the consensus-based deliberations of WBEA members, WBEA technical staff and WBEA science advisors. Comments received from WBEA members were addressed during the review process and the final plan was endorsed by WBEA members.

WBEA’s Southern Regional Air Monitoring Plan was created to address the following objectives:

1. To provide air quality data in support of environment and human health exposure assessments.

2. Address identified gaps in air quality and deposition monitoring in the southern region of WBEA’s air shed.

3. Determine air quality relative to the Alberta Ambient Air Quality Objectives (AAAQO), the Canada-Wide Standards (CWS) or other criteria.

4. Support the monitoring and reporting requirements associated with air quality or deposition management frameworks and EPEA regulatory approvals.

5. Characterize background and trans-boundary air quality in the region.

6. Detect poor air quality events so the public may be notified.

7. Provide chemical profiles of pollution sources for source apportionment work.

8. Determine long-term air quality trends.

Proposed Southern Air Monitoring Plan - Next Steps

If the Southern Air Monitoring Plan is approved for funding by the Alberta Environmental Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Agency (AEMERA) in 2015/16, WBEA members propose to phase in implementation of the plan over the next five years. These phases are proposed in consideration of existing and future development and monitoring in the region. Some of the milestones would include:



  • Prepare a draft work plan for implementation of the Southern Air Monitoring Plan.
  • Complete monitoring site construction and commission the Conklin Enhanced Deposition Station (AMS 18), in support of JOSM.
  • Begin planning and site selection for the network of meteorological towers at all Steam-Assisted Gravity Drainage (SAGD) facilities.
  • Identify facilities, with production greater than 100,000 barrels per day (bpd), which will require fixed air monitoring stations.
  • Identify facilities, with production less than 100,000 bpd which will require portable air monitoring stations and site selection to meet AMD criteria.


  • Install community monitoring stations in Janvier and Conklin.
  • Begin planning and site selection for the southern boundary background/ trans-boundary air monitoring station.
  • Finalize site selection for monitoring activities in the region.
  • Finalize an implementation plan for operations and data management for the Southern Air Monitoring Plan.
  • Construction of sites for specified monitoring activities, at the facilities.
  • Deployment of meteorological towers and passive or new technology monitoring network as required.
  • Incorporation of any existing air monitoring station into the Southern Air Monitoring Plan.
  • Begin planning and site selection for the network of passive or new technology monitoring at all SAGD facilities.


  • Deployment of the southern boundary fixed air monitoring station.
  • Complete implementation of Southern Air Monitoring Plan field activities.


  • Initial review of the Southern Air Monitoring Plan.


  • Conduct dispersion modelling of emissions from the facilities in the region for cumulative effects; perform ambient air and meteorological data analysis for identification of monitoring gaps, elimination of redundancies and opportunities for efficiency.

Southern Air Monitoring Plan Operations and Data Management

Data generated by the proposed Southern Air Monitoring Plan would become part of WBEA’s existing data and information management system which has been developed over the last 17 years to meet user data and operational needs, as well as regulatory requirements. Generating timely, accurate, accessible, high-quality data is a fundamental principle of WBEA’s monitoring programs.

WBEA’s proposed Southern Air Monitoring Plan will ensure that as resource extraction projects are initiated in the southern portion of the RMWB, appropriate monitoring exists to provide all stakeholders with the data they require to make informed environmental decisions.